Its Not About The Likes. Reach Higher in Your Online Alumni Engagement.

Originally posted on EJewishPhilanthropy

As part of the #NetTalks Alumni Engagement Webinar Series, Beth Kanter, nonprofit social media and engagement guru, taught an important lesson during her recent presentation: you must invest in building your online alumni ecosystem, and then you can turn to activating it to achieve your stated goals.

You don’t just want people to “like” you. And you don’t actually want them to start engaging the moment they become alumni. And you don’t really want to share information about your program with them. Really.

Why?

  • Because “liking” your Facebook page or your content is just the beginning. It’s potential, but it’s not the goal. You want alumni to follow you, engage, advocate for you, and donate. The “like” is merely one early step along this path.
  • Because beginning to engage should happen before they become alumni – focus on developing long term relationships and mature communication channels that flow in both directions!
  • And finally, because you want to be in conversation with alumni, not broadcasting information at them.

Building your online alumni ecosystem cannot be based on one-directional broadcasts, nor rest primarily on reminiscing about the past. The opportunity to leverage social media and networks is huge, but requires that we pivot our approach to be more empowering, more conversational, and more personal. (Join the next webinar with James Fowler on Feb. 19th to learn about “Mobilizing the Network: The Power of Friends”.)

Take this example from URJ Camp Kalsman: When beginning to hire staff for the summer, they turned to their alumni (and potentially current older campers and parents of current campers) on Facebook to ask, “We are in the midst of hiring our summer staff and we want to hear from you! What do you love to see in a camp counselor?” By asking a question, the camp invites engagement, values the perspective and experience of alumni, and gains important insight for their future hiring. They’ve moved from “liking” to “engaging” and those who respond actually may influence the experience of future campers.

Beth also showed several examples from schools that are using reminiscing as an entry point to strengthen their network. Their “Throwback Thursday” photos are intended to go beyond reminiscing – they are getting alumni to tag their friends in the group photos, which creates or re-creates a strong group dynamic and builds energy.” It’s not about the school, it’s about the relationships that were fostered there. The Shulamith School for Girls in Brooklyn, NY had 78 comments on a photo from the 1970′s, as alumni talked with each other and reconnected with old friends.

Moving from engagement to activation, The Jewish Community High School of the Bay featured photos of beloved teachers and coaches holding signs (“Coach says GIVE!”) that prompted alumni to join in the communal effort to reach their fundraising goal – tagging friends to contribute and asking for photos of their favorite faculty.

Social media is social as much (or more so) than it is media. As a professional seeking to engage and activate your alumni community, consider yourself more “party host” than “alumni magazine editor”. To play this role, you must have the right tools in your toolbox and know how to use them. However, doing it well goes far beyond technical proficiency. Be a good listener, steward conversations, and empower your biggest fans to enrich the network with their voice, actions and relationships.

If you missed Beth’s webinar, view her presentation here. To learn more about activating an alumni network, join the next #NetTalks webinar with James Fowler on Feb. 19 on “Mobilizing the Network: The Power of Friends”. Register here.

Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

Originally published in EJewishPhilanthropy

During Open House season, schools are looking for ways to stand out among the crowd of institutions trying to reach prospective parents. Talking about a school’s “warm and nurturing community” and the “academic excellence” is only going to get the school so far.

So what else can schools do to rise above all the noise?

When we are faced with many choices, we often rely on word of mouth from friends in our social networks to help make our decisions. So it was clear to us at The Jewish Education Project that in order to promote the school in a unique way, we need to have the parents involved and we need to get the parents talking.

As Bonnie Raitt writes and sings, “Let’s give ‘em somethin’ to talk about.” Or in the 21st century version of this, let’s give parents something to Facebook about.

Parents who are part of the Parent to Parent (P2P) network have been learning about the power of social media to share their stories about Jewish day school education, and adding their voices through local parenting blogs and the Parent to Parent site. The challenge has been to keep them talking, especially during peak periods, such as open house season. Here’s where the campaign approach comes in.

The P2P campaign model organizes parents for a specific time period to talk about a value, an idea, an event – any focus point unique to the school that will help prospective parents get a better idea of what that school, and the community it fosters, is all about.

A very creative campaign can promote the school, without necessarily talking about academic excellence or the nurturing environment. Take for example a marketing campaign for Mercy Academy, an all-girls’ Catholic school in Louisville, Kentucky. In an article about the campaign, the writer explains “The campaign, created by Doe-Anderson, a Louisville-based advertising agency, is meant to reflect one of the school’s core goals: to help its students become independent, productive women in the real world.” And as you can see in the ad, they didn’t need to show science labs or innovative technology to get the message across.

Jewish day school education is first and foremost about imparting positive values to our children. You know it when you experience a Jewish day school education. We need to give parents a framework to convey those values with their friends.

A P2P Campaign in Action: Mazel Day School

The highly engaged and motivated parents of Mazel Day School (MDS) of Brooklyn were the brave pioneers who first experimented with this approach. When I asked the parents what they love about the school, most of them had a real, emotional reaction to the question and talked about the school’s successful approach to imparting positive values. They are extremely proud to see their children grown into mensches.

It was no surprise that they suggested a Photo Mitzvah Campaign promoting the value of the children doing good deeds by inviting parents in Brooklyn to submit pictures of their child doing a mitzvah or good deed. The Mazel parents wanted to reach parents from Jewish early childhood centers in the area, so they partnered with several of them on the campaign. The submitted photos were shared on Mazel Day School Facebook page. The photo with the most “Likes” on Facebook won a $400 Amazon Gift Card.

Mazel Day School parents gave out fliers in the early childhood centers, emailed their friends, sent Facebook messages and talked to other families. The parents now had something to talk about.

The campaign ran for five weeks and opened new doors for the school to reach prospective parents. For the first time, Mazel Day School officially partnered with early childhood centers in the area: KingsBay Y, JCH of Bensonhurst, and Shorefront Y. These new relationships can now be leveraged for other partnership opportunities and for reaching prospective parents. The campaign increased exposure of the school to the broader community. Mazel Day School Parents overheard parents who were not part of the school talking about the contest. The Mazel Facebook page experienced a significant boost during the competition period, including 50 news likes on the Facebook page. The last time they had so much traffic was when their school was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy; now the attention was due to a positive story that truly highlighted the school and the community. In their reflection about the implementation of the campaign, the Mazel parents wanted to organize a larger group of parents to lead and implement the campaign to reach an even larger audience of prospective parents.

At their upcoming open house, the school will ask prospective parents how they found out about the school. At this time, the Mazel parents will be able to evaluate more specifically the reach of their campaign and where they need to focus their future outreach efforts.

Action Steps: Running a P2P Campaign in Your School’s Community

Consider experimenting with this campaign approach to promote your school. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Invite a minimum of three parents in your school to run a campaign.
  • The parents should identify a value, event, or other unique aspect of the school that excites them and would be appealing prospective parents. If it doesn’t galvanize your current parent body, don’t do it, because they won’t be talking about it with their friends.
  • Identify your target audience; be very specific on who you want to reach with the campaign. Mazel parents aimed specifically for parents of children in local early childhood programs, for instance.
  • Get talking! Play around with different social media tools to spread the word about the campaign. Empower parents with the tools they need to keep the conversation rolling.
  • Most importantly, make it fun! Turn it into a competition, make it into a game. Let the parents get really creative and make it their own.

Best-selling author Seth Godin writes: “Stories are the way we navigate our world, our chance to make sense of who we are and what we do.[…] Nonprofits make change, and the way they do this is by letting us tell ourselves stories that nurture our best selves.” Creating a buzz and chatter around your school requires giving parents a great story to talk about. Day school parents are part of a movement committed to giving their children the greatest Jewish education possible. Let’s build that movement; let’s help parents get their stories out.

What will your community share?

Parent to Parent is an initiative of The Jewish Education Project and is made possible by a grant from UJA-Federation of NY. Learn more about Parent to Parent on our website, blog, Facebook and follow us on Twitter. If you are a New York area day school and would like to get staff assistance to implement this project, contact Irene Lehrer Sandalow, Project Manager in the Day School Department of The Jewish Education Project at [email protected]

Measuring the Return on Engagement of Community Commitment

Guest post from Debra Askanase, cross posted from CommunityOrganizer2.0

I’ve been talking and thinking a lot about measuring social media engagement with colleagues, nonprofits, and social media activists. Two years ago, those of us participating in social media engagement and strategy were trying to come up with “the” metric to define social media tactical success. We argued and conversed, exchanged thoughts, and thought about why it’s so hard to pin this down. And then social media practice evolved, as did the thinking about measurement. In fact, it’s crystal clear to me now:

Measuring Return on Engagement (ROE) is actually two measures: SMART goal Return on Engagement, and the ROE of Community Commitment

Using these two metrics, an organization can get a pretty good sense of whether or not its online activities and strategies are working, and whether or not it is building a community of committed stakeholders.

SMART Goal ROE

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound. If you begin your online engagement by defining SMART goals, you can measure the outcomes. This metric looks at the following:

  • Are you reaching SMART goals using social media?
  • How effective is your strategy at meeting SMART goals?
  • How effective are your tactics?

One organization I’ve worked with launched several online campaigns to generate organizational awareness, but didn’t frame the campaigns with SMART goals. The didn’t know how to determine whether or not their campaigns created more awareness, because they didn’t have a good measurement framework. In addition, the campaign itself wasn’t designed to move people towards a measurable activity, which also would have been resolved if they had had predetermined campaign SMART goals.

The ROE of Community Commitment: Using Engagement Metrics

How committed is the entire community you’ve built, both on each platform, and across platforms? Are you creating a sustainable base of fans and stakeholders?

While status metrics are simply the number of fans, followers, and views of video, the real number is the engagement metric. (I don’t want to dismiss status metrics out of hand, as they can illustrate the opportunity that may exist for engagement.) The engagement metric represents numbers that are in the context of social media conversations, and often reflect the impact of social network conversations. These are the community members that

  • Proactively talk about your organization and its work
  • Create something for the organization
  • Interact with your organization (such as posting to the wall, sending a twitter message to you)
  • Share your content
  • Interact with other members of the community

= the number within your online community who care deeply about what you are talking about. When you divide the engagement metric by the total number of fans/followers in a social media channel, that’s the ROE of community commitment.

Your ROE of community commitment is relative. It’s about measuring how engaged your community members are, versus those waiting to be activated. More importantly, it’s a metric to aspire to grow. Most Facebook Pages that I’ve worked with or seen have a “Talking About This” metric (which is Facebook’s community commitment metric) of 1 to 3%. The Twitter community engagement metrics that I’ve tracked are closer to 1%. This isn’t alarming; most people don’t take actions online, and they’d rather lurk, listen, and wait.

If you know and track the ROE of community engagement, the return for the organization is:

  • Identifying committed fans
  • Identifying levels of commitment online, and looking at moving them up the ladder of engagement, or into a back channel of leaders for community planning
  • Understanding whether or not your online community is engaged (see The Case of the 4,000 Twitter Followers Who Don’t Care)
  • Comparing community commitment between social media channels
  • Knowing what is, and is not working within your community
  • Where to invest resources, and how, to build your online community

I’ve put together a spreadsheet template for measuring return on engagement which you may view here. It is divided into three parts: top-level engagement and website stats, community commitment metrics, and specific metrics related to meeting your defined SMART goal(s).

SMART Goal and Community Commitment Metrics Template

Amy Sample Ward also has a great metric tracking template to view, and this template owes a lot to hers.

The most important metric to consider is whether or not you are building a committed and engaged online community. Once you have built that, you can begin to measure whether or not that community is taking actions you’d like them to take.

For a deeper look at Return on Engagement, here is a recent presentation that I gave through Darim Online, and also at the annual meeting of the Nonprofit Consultant’s Network.

Designing Social Media Engagement

View more presentations from Debra Askanase
 
Debra Askanase is an experienced digital strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. Community Organizer 2.0 works with businesses and nonprofits to develop actionable and measurable digital media strategies that meet organizational goals.  She blogs at CommunityOrganizer2.0 and tweets at @askdebra